HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The principal of Waialua High and Intermediate School is facing criticism from the teachers union for holding an assembly on campus with nearly 80 students.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association said it was “appalled” to learn that the school held a 30-minute assembly Tuesday and planned more on Friday and next week.
In a letter sent to parents on Friday, school Principal Christine Alexander confirmed an assembly was held on Tuesday to welcome students back.
She also detailed all the safety precautions the school took, listing the following:
- There were 79 students and only their teachers present.
- Individual classes entered the gym one at a time.
- Each grade level (39 and 40 students, respectively) sat on opposite sides of the gym.
- Students sat 6 feet apart in all directions.
- Everyone wore masks at all times.
- All windows and doors remained open, and the overhead fans were circulating.
“It saddens me that our school has come under such scrutiny, especially at a time in which we are all facing many challenges,” she wrote.
The HSTA said parents were not notified in advance and the assemblies pose a risk to attendees.
It also cited DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s guidance that all in-person gatherings with more than 20 people are canceled, including proms and banquets.
However, DOE said Friday that the department’s announcement regarding the cancellation of large, in-person gatherings refers to social events such as proms and banquets.
“It does not apply to instructional gatherings,” said DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani, in an email.
“As noted in Principal Alexander’s message, the main purpose of the assembly was to orient students back to campus with new COVID-19 safety protocols. The intention was to ensure a greater sense of safety for both students and staff for the remainder of the semester.”
Alexander said the school holds meetings regularly with staff to ensure safety standards are upheld.
“We felt very safe about bringing them to the gym, which is huge.” Alexander said.
“We have spent countless hours meeting and ensuring that our students and our staff are safe, that it was our number one priority.”
Daniel Adams, a parent of two students attending the school, said he didn’t mind the assemblies.
“I think the gym gives more than enough room to make sure your student is distanced,” he said.
“I know deep in her heart and that with everything Ms. Alexander does, she’s doing everything she can to protect the students.”
Highschoolers will be returning next week, according to Alexander.
Hunter Valencia is a senior and he said word of the assemblies made him hesitant to return.
“We’re still in a pandemic,” Valencia said. “It’s kind of making me uncomfortable, going back to school,” Valencia said.
HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said holding an assembly “is dangerous.”
“We are worried that this principal is creating superspreader events at a time when her school should be transitioning to distance learning for everybody’s safety.”
Alexander said staff will be reevaluating having assemblies in the future. Any parents uncomfortable with their student attending an assembly is able to opt their child out.